Friday September 03, 2021
Jane Mayer's Article
I finally got around to reading Jane Mayer's article “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie,” from early August, about the people, organizations and theories behind the attempts to undermine American democracy. They're close to doing so. A few names to watch:
- Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas
- Karen Fann, president of the Arizona State Senate
- The Heritage Foundation
- The Federalist Society
- The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Leonard Leo, chairman of the Federallist Society
- Lisa Nelson, the CEO of ALEC
- Freedom Works
- Election Integrity Project California
- the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Milwaukee
- Cleta Mitchell, Bradley Foundation director, legal counsel of True the Vote, and member of Freedom Works
- The Indepedent Legislature Doctrine
- Chris Ruddy, founder of Newsmaxx
- Robert George, Bradley Foundation board, former Princeton philosophy professor
- Art Pope, libertarian discount-store magnate, Bradley Foundation board
- Paul Clement, Kirkland & Ellis, Bradley Foundation board
- True the Vote, right-wing poll monitor org in Texas
- The Public Interest Legal Foundation, funded by the Bradley Foundation
- John Eastman, one of the directors of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, who spoke with Trump about ways to void the election on Jan. 4, 2021
- J. Christian Adams, Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyer
- Hans von Spakovsky, Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyer and head of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative
- Shawnna Bolick, running for AZ secretary of state
- Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA
- Tyler Bowyer, COO of Turning Point and member of the RNC
- Rally Forge, AZ-based marketing co. involved in troll farming, banned from Facebook
- Jake Hoffman, president of Rally Forge, permanently suspended from Twitter
- Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, the politically active arm of the Heritage Foundation
- Townhall, conservative website
- Election Transparency Initiative
- the Susan B. Anthony List
- American Principles Project
Here's a good quote from Republican lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg, who for years, Mayer writes, led the party's election-law fights but is now disenchanted with the fraud taking place: “a party that's increasingly old and white whose base is a diminishing share of the population is conjuring up charges of fraud to erect barriers to voting for people it fears won't support its candidates.”
And from near the end of the article: “In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote 'election integrity,' starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona.”
It's all about dark money preventing dark people from voting. Pay attention. I'm talking to me, too.
Sunday August 15, 2021
Last Days in Afghanistan
Q: Your book [“Freedom”] briefly touches on Afghanistan, a country where you've spent considerable time as a reporter and documentary filmmaker. With the Biden administration's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops by Sept. 11, the Taliban are poised to regain power. How do you view their claim to freedom?
I loathe the Taliban like I loathe Franco and Pinochet and anyone who tramples human rights for their own benefit or their own ideology. But this is what's so tricky about the word “freedom.” Who will enjoy freedom under the Taliban? The Taliban. They represent quite a swath of Afghan society – they represent probably the majority of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan – and for them, their definition of freedom is, “We don't want somebody else telling us what to do and how to live and who to worship.” And I can't dispute that with them; I just loathe their human values.
I'm not going to tell Americans what policies they should ascribe to, but as a journalist, I can talk about the benefits and costs of different policies. The benefits of not being in Afghanistan is that there are 2,000 special ops forces that can't possibly be killed because they won't be there. That's the upside, and we also won't provide an easy excuse for the Taliban to justify their violence. The downside, of course, is that we pull out and Afghan society implodes and there's tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and in all likelihood, the Taliban reclaim the country and impose their sharia law and rewind the beginnings of human rights and women's rights. It makes me nauseous to think about it.
-- Sebastian Junger, co-director of “Restrepo,” in conversation with one-time Stars & Stripes reporter Martin Kuz, in The Christian Science Monitor on June 1 of this year. Today, Kabul fell to the Taliban, who once again rule the country after 20 years of U.S. occupation.
Thursday July 01, 2021
Donald Rumsfeld (1932-2021)
Deflecting the truth with aren't-I-clever grins.
The most recent wave of horrific Republicans has made me all-but-forget just how awful the previous generation of horrific Republicans were, but the death of Donald Rumsfeld yesterday, at age 88, reopened some of those wounds. I don't know if Rumsfeld was the worst of the bunch, but his CV is pretty good: secretary of defense under George W. Bush, who, within hours of the 9/11 attack, was turning his eye not toward the attackers but toward his own foreign policy to-do list, which began with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. You might have heard how that one ended.
George Packer has a good obit on the man on the Atlantic site. He's less kind than me. Excerpt:
Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn't spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara ... Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile—squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind. ...
Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he'd long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn't need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn't operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he'd ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.
I had my own Rumsfeld-McNamara comparison after viewing Errol Morris' underappreciated doc, “The Unknown Known,” which was a kind of national follow-up to his Acadamy Award-winning doc on McNamara, “The Fog of War.” Two defense secretaries, two disastrous American wars, but at least McNamara was willing to glimpse himself in the mirror and see the horror. If Rumsfeld glimpsed himself, he was too enamored with what he saw. “Indeed,” I wrote back in 2014, “Rumsfeld, with his nitpicky, overly semantic arguments and pleased-with-himself 'aren't I clever?' grins, makes McNamara, the numbers cruncher and company man, seem like the most soulful person who ever lived.”
Morris' title, of course, comes from Rumsfeld's famous quote about what we know/don't know:
- known knowns: things we know we know
- known unknowns: things we know we don't know
- unknown unknowns: things we don't know that we don't know
- unknown knowns: things we think we know but don't
Rumsfeld was a master of unknown knowns to the end. And now he's left us for the great known unknown. If there's anything to know there, now he knows.
Sunday June 13, 2021
The Democratic Party Needs to Listen to Marc Maron More Often
“It is Memorial Day. I do want to put my heart out there for people who have lost people, in all fights. And I do again want to stress my gratitude to the people that have had the courage to get vaccinated like fucking adults: the people that had the courage to take a hit for the herd, and move forward, believing in science; and with the belief that we can somehow push this virus back. We did it. Those are the people that fought for our freedom this year—the people that got vaccinated. Not the belligerent babies who didn't get vaccinated for whatever reason. I mean, I do have some empathy and understanding for people who have health issues and don't want to get vaccinated. But all of those people who fought against the fight to stop the spread of the virus, because of what they saw as 'the fight for their personal freedom,' can go fuck themselves, on this Memorial Day.”
-- Marc Maron on his WTF podcast on May 31, 2021. This is the way the Dems need to frame the argument. The other side has usurped the freedom label but it's really ours. We fought to make us all more free; so that we can go to restaurants and ball games and visit family again. They fought for their own freedom to be dicks and douches. Just be upfront about it. The other side is crazy and getting crazier, and you don't stop them with kindness.
Sunday May 16, 2021
Burn After Reading II
“Basically a large proportion of the people who worked with Trump came away deeply dismayed by his mental capabilities. O'Keefe, Ledeen, et al., looking at this epidemic of Trump appointees who consider him a complete moron, decided the problem was a deep-state cabal subverting Trump. And then, despite investing large sums of money, the expertise of a British spy, and several attractive women, did not get anybody calling Trump an idiot on camera. This would be like luring a group of tourists into the desert without air conditioning in the goal of getting somebody to say they're hot, and failing.
”Mark 'Deep Throat' Felt famously said of the Watergate scheme, 'The truth is these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.' The truth about Trump's gang of wannabe spies is that they're not very bright guys, and things did not even get out of hand, because they couldn't even get people to blurt out an opinion held by half of America and nearly all of Washington, D.C."
-- Jonathan Chait, New York magazine, commenting on an article in The New York Times about a spectacularly inept undercover operation during the Trump presidency led by James O'Keefe's spectacularly inept Project Veritas. Someone should make it into a movie. I nominate the Coens.
Friday May 14, 2021
What the Left Still Doesn't Get
Via Andrew Sullivan's weekly column. It's about the GOP's great missed opportunity. I agree with almost every word:
By clinging to a broadly toxic figure like Trump, and orienting their strategy around his unappeasable vanity, the GOP is flubbing one of its biggest political opportunities in years: to craft redistributionist policies for the mass of working Americans, and to defend the legacy of the West, its values and traditions, against the most radical left assault since the late 1960s.
Everywhere in the West, this is now the winning electoral formula: left on economics, right on culture. By “left on economics”, I mean a recognition that market capitalism has been too successful for its and our own good, and that spreading the wealth to more people is needed both for social stability and to rescue capitalism from itself. And by “right on culture”, I do not mean some kind of revived Christianism. I mean affirming a critical but undeniable love of country and its flawed but inspiring history, reforming rather than defunding the police, enforcing the nation’s borders with firmness and compassion, embracing color-blind policies on race, and viewing our common humanity and citizenship as deeper principles than the modern left’s and radical right’s obsession with group identity.
Get that balance right, and the future is yours. In a must-read essay in Britain’s New Statesman, Tony Blair spells out how the progressive left is still misreading the public mood, allowing a cannier, less rigid right to entrench power. Money quote: “‘Defund the police’ may be the left’s most damaging political slogan since ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ … It leaves the right with an economic message which seems more practical, and a powerful cultural message around defending flag, family and fireside traditional values.” Some key principles Blair lays out:
People do not like their country, their flag or their history being disrespected. The left always gets confused by this sentiment and assume this means people support everything their country has done or think all their history is sacrosanct. They don’t. But they query imposing the thinking of today on the practices of yesterday … People like common sense, proportion and reason. They dislike prejudice; but they dislike extremism in combating prejudice.
I've long felt Democrats have focused too little on class issues in my lifetime. The GOP under Trump, meanwhile, has given up everything they once purportedly valued—rectitude, civic responsibility, institutions like the FBI and CIA, free trade—for a Putin-loving, ally-bashing, tariff-raising, baldly corrupt clownshow that puts himself above party and party above country, and who encouraged a violent overthrow of our democracy. It's a time of extremism and this thing we're all on, plus social media, plus blatant propaganda like Fox News, are the reasons.
Friday April 30, 2021
“If this can happen to the former president's lawyer, this can happen to any American.”
-- Andrew Giuliani, Rudy's son, after an FBI raid on his father's home earlier this week. He seems to think the above line is documenting an abuse of power when it's the opposite. It's documenting how rule of law is supposed to work.
Saturday April 24, 2021
Walter Mondale (1928-2021)
Carter and Mondale and the spirit of '76.
Here's my Walter Mondale story. I believe I've told it before.
In the summer of 2004, I was given an assignment for a new legal pubication. I was to write features on two Texas attorneys/politicos: one a Republican in Houston, the other a Democrat in Dallas. For the Republican attorney, besides the principle, I interviewed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Karl Rove; for the Dem, former vice president Walter Mondale. It was a heady week. I interviewed some of the most connected, most powerful people on the planet and then on Friday I went down to the unemployment office to explain why I hadn't found a job yet. Such is the life of a freelancer. Oddly, or not, the work I was doing the week I wasn't getting a job wound up becoming my job. The magazine expanded, I was hired as a senior editor, and in early 2005 I moved back to Minneapolis, where I'd been born and raised. I'm now the magazine's editor in chief.
That's not my Walter Mondale story, of course. That's just background. Here's the story.
The week after I moved back to Minneapolis, my then-girlfriend/now wife Patricia came from Seattle to visit and we went to see the movie “Downfall” at the Uptown Theater. That was my old arthouse theater; I saw a lot of classic movies there growing up. While she went to the bathroom, I found us seats, and a moment later another couple came in and laid their stuff in the row in front of us, then departed. When Patricia came back, my eyes were sparkling.
“Guess who's sitting in front of us?”
She gave me a quizzical look. “Adam?”
“No. It's no one we know.”
“Then how can I guess?”
“It's a famous person. Think of the most Minnesota person ever.”
She perked up. “Prince?”
“No, not ... that kind of famous. Think politics.”
“Just tell me.”
I just told her: Walter and Joan Mondale. After the movie was over, I trailed after Monday as he made his way down the aisle and then introduced myself as the journalist who had interviewed him the previous summer about his former advance man Boe Martin. He was gracious, we talked for a bit—Joan had already gone out into the lobby—and I was probably rushing to keep the conversation going when he reached past me to shake Patricia's hand and introduce himself. I'd just been standing there like a doofus, not introducing the woman behind me, but he had better manners. Then we all talked a bit about the movie. It was about the best welcome back to Minnesota I could imagine.
I thought of this again when hearing the news that Walter Mondale died on Monday, age 93.
Most of the obits said the same thing: he was a decent man who suffered a “crushing defeat” when he ran for president against Ronald Reagan in 1984. Few try to parse those two points, but it was one of the great lessons of my young life: decency loses, lies win. In her remembrance, Jane Mayer writes that “He was the last Presidential nominee of either party to respect the American public enough to tell it the hard truth about economic realities.” And you see where it got you. Or where it got us. She remembers Mondale deflating a raucous college campus crowd by talking about the services they'd need when they got old; she remembers him at the 1984 Democratic convention telling the electorate he would have to raise their taxes to ensure those services and a more just society. America half-listened, said “nah,” and went with the guy with the Hollywood career and the slick “Morning in America” campaign commercials. America went with the lies. And the lies only got worse.
He was the son of a Lutheran minister from a small Southern Minnesota town, Ceylon, who became mentee to Minnesota's great rising son, Hubert H. Humphrey. He got out the vote for him in '48, did the same for Orville Freeman in the 1950s, and was appointed state attorney general in 1960. In '62 he was elected to the post. In '64, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the Humphrey vacancy and in '66 he was elected to the post. He was re-elected in a landslide during the year Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. He transformed the vice presidency into something more substantial and wonky, into a working partnership with the president. After '84, he returned to Minnesota and a law practice in downtown Minneapolis at Dorsey & Whitney. He helped Minnesota business thrive. He was U.S. ambassador to Japan, and following the sudden death of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone a few weeks before the 2002 election, he was drafted into the campaign. He lost to another liar, Norm Coleman, during a Republican year. I have trouble forgiving Minnesota for that one.
His death wasn't unexpected but I was surprised by how much it hurt. After I heard the news, I kept pressing my palms against my chest. I, with no rights in this matter.
He left a lovely final note to staff members: “Well, my time has come,” he wrote. “I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor. Before I go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much, and I know you will keep up the good fight.”
Saturday April 03, 2021
Republicans Take Firm Stand Against Baseball, Coca-Cola and Voting Rights
I like this tweet I saw the other day:
- On March 25, the GOP-led Georgia legislature passed, and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed, a law limiting voting in the state.
- The New York Times calls the legislation “a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications.” You have less time to request an absentee ballot, stricter ID laws, fewer drop boxes, no voting centers, vote-counting changes that slow the process, and, infamously, a misdemeanor to give water to someone waiting in line to vote. Oh, and if questions arise, the GOP-led legislature has more power to decide matters.
- When Georgia-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola criticized the new law, Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere criticized them.
- Yesterday, Major League Baseball pulled its lucrative All-Star Game out of Georgia in response to the partisan law.
One wonders how isolated the GOP has to become before it gives up on the craziness and rejoins the American community. I mean, they're now attacking baseball and Coca-Cola. Is apple pie next?
I assume it continues. As long as Republicans have Fox and right-wing talk radio to air their lies, it continues. It's Fox, after all, that's driving the GOP talking points, not the other way around, as Paul Waldman wrote yesterday.
Tuesday March 23, 2021
In the wake of the mass shooting in a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado yesterday, which left 10 dead, and which came a week after the massage-parlor shootings in Georgia, which left eight dead, this tweet from cartoonist Tom Tomorrow:
Wednesday February 17, 2021
Trump v. McConnell
“You can tell how worried Republicans are that they are now the Trump Party by the contortions of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who aided Trump almost to the end. Rarely has a politician been more blatant in attempting the impossible feat of running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds.
”Moments after voting to let Trump off — 'on a technicality,' as Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas shrewdly observed ... McConnell blistered the inciter in chief in a speech the impeachment managers could have written. His words told the world who won the argument. They also underscored how wrenching it will be for Republican politicians to appease the GOP's Trump-supporting majority while pretending to be another party altogether.“
-- E.J. Dionne, Jr., ”The beginning of the end of Trumpism,“ in The Washington Post.
That was Sunday. Yesterday, Trump attacked back in his usual fashion but via an unusual platform: a press release. Apparently his aides didn't want him going off-script in a public appearance. This was the script: ”Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again. He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First.“ Blah blah blah. In the midst, I tweeted: ”So weird to be on the side of one of the worst people in the world: Mitch McConnell. But here we are."
Thursday February 11, 2021
Where We Are
Let's face it, though. The Fox News rhetoric that the Murdochs get rich and powerful off of is partly responsible for the attack. They began it all. They kept the Big Lie of election fraud alive. They not only gave it air, they gave it lighter fluid and a lit match. But it's good for people to say this stuff out loud. I still need to read Stelter's book on Fox News.
I was busy yesterday but caught bits of the second impeachment hearings: Office Eugene Goodman warning Mitt Romney about the mob, saving his life. We were very close, much closer than I thought, to January 6th being much, much worse. Patricia watched a lot of it. She spent the day enraged.